WHICH DISCOUNTS DO YOU QUALIFY FOR?
Auto insurance is mandatory in every state, but insurance agents aren't required to disclose every discount available to vehicle owners. That's why it's important to know what is discount-worthy and ask for the best quote possible. Bankrate recently conducted a study of 10 auto insurance providers and found that while some discounts are fairly universal, others are offered only by a few companies. Car owners relocating to another state, switching providers, or going through major life events may be eligible for new discounts, as well. Cheapism.com identified 18 discount opportunities to check out.
RAISE THE DEDUCTIBLE
Deductibles and premiums often go hand in hand in an inverse relationship. A higher deductible means the insured has to pay more when filing a claim, but the savings on premiums can be substantial.
LIMIT THE COVERAGE
States mandate minimum liability coverage and new-car owners may feel the need to opt for everything available, but with an older vehicle collision and comprehensive coverage aren't necessary. A rule of thumb is to stop paying for collision and comprehensive if the annual premiums are more than 10 times the replacement value of the vehicle. Personal injury protection can be reduced for car owners who are confident that their health insurance will cover accident-related medical expenses.
BUY THE RIGHT VEHICLE
Insurance rates vary significantly depending on the vehicle and its age. The cheapest vehicles to insure are generally SUVs, crossovers, and pickups. Driving a vehicle that is just a few years old may result in a discount, as well. Some insurers offer green vehicle and economy car discounts.
IMPROVE CREDIT SCORES
In some states, an applicant's credit score can impact their insurance rates. Improving a credit score isn't an overnight process, but making sure payments are always made on time is one of the most important steps to take.
STICK TO ONE COMPANY
Insurance companies are eager to give discounts to customers who buy several types of insurance from them. Clients who already pay for homeowner's or renter's insurance, auto insurance on a different vehicle, or have taken out a life insurance policy should ask how much of a discount they would receive on a new auto policy. State Farm offers up to 22 percent off multi-line discounts (multiple types of insurance) and up to 20 percent off for multi-vehicle coverage. Sticking with a single insurer year after year may yield a loyalty discount. Anyone shopping around should contact several insurance companies to learn what the total cost would be if they transfer all their policies. An independent insurance broker can help with this process.
Married couples are eligible for all sorts of financial benefits and discounts, including lower premiums. It turns out that studies have shown married individuals are less likely to get in an accident. However, lower premiums aren't guaranteed, especially if one of the newlyweds has a bad driving record or long commute, or drives a luxury car.
BUY A SAFE VEHICLE
Agents should ask about the safety features of a vehicle, but if they don't, be sure to share them. Automatic seat belts, airbags for both drivers and passengers, running lights or adaptive headlights, and anti-lock brakes can all lead to discounted premiums. Newer options such as rearview cameras, blind-spot or lane-departure warnings, and tire-pressure monitors (mandatory on all 2008 and newer vehicles) can decrease the cost of insurance.
Using anti-theft devices such as a steering wheel club, pedal locks, or an alarm system is often rewarded with a discount. Vehicle recovery systems such as LoJack may warrant further discounts, but at $695 it's a costly upfront installation.
Many organizations, clubs, and companies use the power of numbers to negotiate discounted rates with insurance companies. Members of alumni associations, AARP, the military, or any other large organization should check to see if they're eligible for a group-buying discount.
GET GOOD GRADES
Student discounts often are available to those with at least a B average. Some companies, though, want to see students on the dean's list or at the top of their class. Student discounts, which can reach beyond 20 percent, don't apply to high schoolers only. Full-time undergrad and graduate students are eligible, although an age ceiling (generally 25) is common.
MOVE FOR SCHOOL
Speaking of students, many insurers give discounts to policyholders who have added a young student who is attending school at least 100 miles away but leaves the vehicle at home. This makes sense because the student will use the vehicle only occasionally.
PAY BY THE MILE
Many auto insurance carriers offer a discount to drivers who don't use their car often. Consider joining a carpool, walking or biking to work, or, in multi-car households, using only one vehicle for road trips; after making such adjustments, contact the insurance agent to receive the discount. Alternatively, Metromile (available in select states) is a new type of auto insurance provider that bills based on the number of miles driven (tracked with GPS) rather than charging a fixed premium.
CONTINUE YOUR EDUCATION
Drivers who have been behind the wheel for years may think they know everything there is to know, but taking a defensive driving course (even an online course) can lead to lower premiums. For example, Allstate offers a discount worth up to 10 percent to students who have taken the TeenSmart course and to those 25 years or older who have taken six hours of defensive driving instruction and have a clean record. In some states, Geico limits the defensive driver discount to policyholders aged 50 and older.
Older drivers who are not actively seeking a full-time job can receive a discount on their premiums. Retired veterans may receive an additional discount in recognition of their service.
PAY WISELY AND ALWAYS RENEW
A lapse in auto coverage can result in increased premiums and even disqualification from some discounts. One option is to pay a year in full ahead of time, which often comes with a discount, or to set up automatic payments, another discount-worthy action. Take particular care when switching carriers and be sure there won't be a lapse.
SIGN UP EARLY
Don't wait until the last minute to buy or renew an insurance policy. Buying a policy more than a week before it takes effect can lead to savings of 10 percent at Allstate and Travelers. Knowing this, policyholders may also be able to negotiate with their current provider by threatening to switch and quoting the early-purchase discount they would receive.
KEEP A CLEAN RECORD
Perhaps easier said than done, but drivers with a clean record receive significant discounts. Geico offers up to 26 percent off to those who have been accident-free for five years. Allstate gives clean drivers up to 22 percent off after three years and up to 35 percent after five. Always wearing a seat belt also can lower premiums with some insurers.
INSTALL TRACKING HARDWARE
Several insurance carriers now offer drivers the option to install GPS tracking in their vehicle. State Farm clients can enroll in the Drive Safe and Save program and install the company's In-Drive hardware or use a vehicle's built-in OnStar or Sync systems to track activity. Drivers receive up to five percent off right away and up to 50 percent off as more data is shared. Allstate's Drivewise system monitors drivers' speed, brake activity, and driving times and rewards good drivers with points that can be redeemed for gift cards, brand-name goods, and local offers. One warning: Drivers who receive a low-mileage discount may find their premiums go up if the tracking shows they drive more than they claim to. And another: If you're concerned about privacy, forget this tip.